Home » FAT32 vs. exFAT vs. NTFS: What’s the Difference?

FAT32 vs. exFAT vs. NTFS: What’s the Difference?4 min read

by Abu Zar Mishwani
Difference between FAT32 NTFS and exFAT

When formatting an internal disk, external drive, Flash drive, or SD card, Windows provides three different file systems: NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. In this article, we will understand what each of the terms actually means and how they differ from each other.

But, before that, we need to understand:

What is File System?

A file system is a collection of algorithms and data structures that translate logical file operations into physical data storage. A file system governs how data is stored and accessed on computers.

Information stored in a storage medium without a file system would be one massive body of data without knowing where one piece of information ends, and the next begins.

FAT32 File System:

MICROSOFT CREATED the FAT32 file system, also known as the File Allocation Table file system, in 1977. FAT32 is an older file system that is less efficient and advanced than NTFS, but it is more compatible with other operating systems and portable storage devices.

The biggest limitation of the FAT32 file system is that it cannot hold files larger than 4 GB. When using the FAT32 file system, you may get the error “File is too large for the destination file system.”

Advantages of FAT32:

Here are the advantages/benefits of FAT32:

  • As long as 32 KB clusters are used, the FAT32 file system can store 268.173.300 files.
  • This file system can handle drives up to 2 TB in capacity and up to 16 TB with 64 KB clusters.
  • This system also changes the root folder to which the backup FAT table copy can be used.
  • The FAT 32 file system allows you to expand the boot record on your FAT32 drive.

Disadvantages of FAT32:

Here are the disadvantages/benefits of FAT32:

  • FAT32 cannot store files larger than 4GB.
  • A FAT32 partition that is larger than 8 TB cannot be created.
  • It doesn’t have the permissions and security features that the more advanced NTFS file system has.
  • Current versions of file windows that are difficult to install on a drive formatted with a FAT32 file system are not supported by the FAT32 file system.

Compatibility:

  • Compatible with removable flash drives and other USB-based storage devices.
  • Compatible with all versions of Windows, Mac, Linux, game consoles, and almost anything else that has a USB port

Usage:

For maximum compatibility, USB drives are frequently formatted as FAT32. If you want to use it on a portable drive, make sure the disk is formatted as FAT32. Make sure you don’t save any greater than 4 GB files.

NTFS File System:

Microsoft created the New Technology File System (NTFS), first released in 1993 with Windows NT 3.1. The NTFS file system is used by the Windows NT and Windows 2000 operating systems. NTFS is the most used file system in Windows, notably for the system drive and most internal hard drives.

NTFS has a lot of modern functionality that FAT32 and exFAT don’t have. File permissions for security, a change journal to help swiftly recover errors if your computer crashes, shadow copies for backups, encryption, disk quota limitations, hard links, and other features are all available in NTFS. Many of these, particularly file permissions, are essential for an operating system drive.

Advantages of NTFS File System:

Here are the advantages/benefits of NTFS:

  • The boot sector can be backed up.
  • Allows you to format volumes up to 2TB and establish disk quotas.
  • The NTFS file system is compatible with both Mac OS X and Linux.
  • This file system assists you in reducing the number of visits required to locate a file.
  • It can handle big files and almost has no real partition size restriction.
  • A file system with enhanced security allows the user to configure file permissions and encryption.
  • Using the log file and checkpoint information restores the file system’s consistency.
  • When you run out of storage space, it allows you to compress files, folders, or the entire drive.
  • If there are a power failure or other system problems, a change journal is used to help recover information promptly.
  • Allows users to set storage quotas, limiting how much space they can use.
  • There are no acceptable file or partition size limits.

Disadvantages of NTFS File System:

Here are the disadvantages/benefits of NTFS:

  • The NTFS file system is not compatible with MS-DOS, Windows 95, or Windows 98.
  • With a low hard drive space, the NTFS file system is slow.

Compatibility:

  • All Windows versions are supported.
  • By default, Mac OSX is read-only, and certain Linux variants may also be read-only by default.
  • NTFS write support is only available in a few Linux variants.

Usage:

An NTFS file system is ideal for your Windows system drive and any large internal or external hard drives that will only be used with Windows.

exFAT File System:

Extended File Allocation Table is shortened as exFAT. It is a file system created by Microsoft in 2006 similar to FAT32 but does not have the same limitations as FAT32.

ExFAT is a file system designed to replace FAT32 and is intended for flash memory such as USB flash drives and SD cards, while some older systems may only support FAT32.

Advantages of exFAT:

Here are the advantages/benefits of exFAT:

  • After an unintentional removal from the exFAT file system, exFAT can recover lost files.
  • The formatted exFAT file system on Windows can be restored.
  • It can recover data from a hard drive, USB drive, memory stick, memory card, and other storage devices.
  • exFAT files such as documents, photos, images, videos, music, and emails can be retrieved.
  • Allows you to store files considerably larger than the FAT32 limit of 4 GB.
  • There are no realistic file or partition size limits.

Disadvantages of exFAT:

Here are the disadvantages/benefits of exFAT:

  • FAT32 is more compatible than exFAT.
  • It lacks journaling features and other advanced features found in the NTFS file system.

Compatibility:

  • All versions of Windows and the latest Mac OS X are supported.
  • Linux-compatible, however, additional software is required.

Usage:

When you need to create large partitions and store files greater than 4GB, or when you require more compatibility than NTFS provides, you can utilize exFAT. exFAT is also a good choice for swapping or exchanging huge files, especially between OSes.

Difference between FAT32, NTFS, and exFAT:

The following are some key differences between FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS File Systems:

FAT32NTFSexFAT
The FAT32 file system was released with Windows 95.Although NTFS was first introduced with Windows NT, it became popular with Windows XP.With the release of Windows XP and Vista, ex-FAT was introduced.
The format is simple to use and access.File permissions, shadow copies for backup, encryption, and storage quota limitations are all supported by NTFS.It works best with flash drives.
It is compatible with all Windows versions. Linux, Mac, etc.All Windows versions are supported.It is compatible with all Windows versions.
Using Mac devices does not require any special configuration.It is read-only on Mac and some Linux versions.The exFAT file system is compatible with all Windows versions and Mac OS X but requires special software on Linux.
The maximum file size is 4 GB, while the maximum partition size is 8TB.There are no restrictions on the size of files or partitions.It also has no restrictions on the size of files or partitions.
FAT32 is an outdated file system that is less efficient than NTFS.The most recent file system is NTFS. Windows uses NTFS for the system drive and most non-removable drives by default.exFAT is a modern alternative for FAT 32 that is supported by more devices and operating systems than NTFS, but it is not as widely used as FAT32.

Conclusion:

As you can see, understanding the differences between NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT file systems is not difficult. And each one has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. 

Still, if you’ve any questions regarding the File System, you can ask them below in the comment section, and we will reply to them at the earliest.

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